Will El Nino Bring Spring Floods?

El Nino's fingerprints are all over the spring forecast: New England and already-soaked California and Florida are the chief "areas of concern" as the spring flood season nears, government forecasters said Tuesday.

A characteristic of the El Nino weather phenomenon is wetter than normal weather that has already led to saturated ground and major damage from California across the southern tier of states to Florida.

"It has been raining over and over and over again," National Weather Service hydrologist Frank Richards said about California and Florida.

With El Nino likely to continue for at least another month, continued wet weather is expected in those areas, Richards said. The flood threat depends on whether the rainfall spreads out and can run off or is concentrated in a short time, he explained.

Richards and meteorologist Ed O'Lenic discussed the spring flood forecast at a briefing beneath a gray, rainy sky on Alexandria's flood-prone waterfront.

"Much of California has above normal flood risk," Richards said. "Although flooding has currently subsided ... conditions continue to be ripe for further flood problems."

Soil in the state is saturated, many streams are near flood level, reservoirs are high and there is a bountiful snowpack, he added.

Another area of concern stretches from East Texas to central Pennsylvania and south to Florida. Rainfall in this region has been plentiful, soil conditions are very wet and minor flooding has already been occurring.

Richards said the only other area with above average flood risk includes much of New England and parts of New York, an area with a snowpack well above average.

On the other hand, for the Upper Midwest, devastated by flooding last year, there is good news, said Commerce Secretary William M. Daley. The El Nino brought a relatively mild winter there with a snowpack below last year's.

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